July 5, 2017 at 1:44 pm EST | by Brock Thompson
Goodbye to Town
Town Danceboutique, gay news, Washington Blade

Town Danceboutique (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,


Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,


Silence the pianos and with muffled drum


Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come (The Funeral Blues, W.H. Auden)

It was announced last week, landing like an anvil on social media, Town Danceboutique, the District’s only real queer dance club, has only a year left before it closes its doors forever. Yes, we have Cobalt and Flash, but we all know Town stands apart from the rest. The reaction to the news was swift, and, as if an old friend had announced on Facebook he was moving away for good, people began to mourn.

What is Town, anyway? Or more precisely, what does Town represent to us? A place for a bear happy hour, country and western line dancing, drag shows, a beer garden, dance parties, a place where we came to raise funds for the Pulse victims. A place as large as Town is, the landscape and environment can change by the hour, by the room, by the music, to accommodate most any taste or preference of a diverse urban queer community. To those new to the city and to dance clubs, perhaps freshly out of college or freshly out altogether, stepping out onto the dance floor at Town and at clubs like it was stepping out into something much larger, a space allowing for a new expression. My friend James likened Town to that hip aunt that always knew, the one you could really be yourself around. To those of us who’ve been in the District a decade or more, Town reminded us of the Nation days, an otherwise nondescript warehouse in another part of the city that provided within its walls the venue for another world.

Town played it smart though, giving us all a year to mourn. Giving themselves time to regroup and find another space, which I sincerely hope they do. This might prove to be challenging. Opening 10 years ago, we can perhaps all agree that 10 years is a long time in a city such as this. People come and go, the city itself changed, and finding a warehouse space such as that may be difficult. Progress can be tricky, as the city progresses, and the LGBTQ movement progresses, certain things get left behind. There was a grittiness, a certain freedom of movement and expression that went along with being on the margins. As Town announced its impending closure, making way for condos, many in the gay community were openly wondering if we’ve effectively out-gentrified ourselves.

For some time, people have been writing the obituary for the gay bar. I’m not quite there yet. Gay bars and clubs, any real spaces minority groups set up for themselves, will always have value and need. After all, one cannot overemphasize the importance of being able to enter a space, in practically every city in countless countries, and knowing you have at least one thing in common with everyone in the room.

So what will happen now? We have a year. And in a city such as ours, a year can make a whole lot of difference. Let’s not break out the black armbands just yet.

Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based freelance writer. He contributes regularly to the Blade.

  • Good article. It’s getting harder and harder to find a place where you can meet your own in person anymore without fear, doubt or intimidation. The beauty of entering a gay space is that you know everyone else is like you and you can check out anyone you please, flirt, cruise and much more without worrying about it. The worst you can get is rejection. It’s energizing and uplifting. It’s not about segregation but rather sometimes you just need to step out of the madness of the heterosexual world and find strength and joy with others like you!

    While many people only know online hookups, nothing can beat going into a place and seeing and meeting hundreds of people like yourself. The music, the eye candy and excitement of meeting someone new face-to-face and seeing your friends. Gay life was so exciting when there were gay neighborhoods and gay bars, and other gay businesses galore within a certain radius!

    Gentrification and the internet has ruined what used to be a wonderful experience you could have any day of the week. Now, you have to settle for Pride once a year to come even close! So sad!

  • Why has everyone just given up? Why is there no pushback?

    Why are we not forming Facebook groups with tens of thousands of members and telling everyone to call the developer? Or swamp the local ANC meeting to say the new condo designs are hideous and must be reworked for a decade?

    In a community like ours where people enjoy activism and have some experience at it, why is there no resistance to our largest club’s death to make way for condos?

    Why is no one thinking about what this will do to our other bars — Nellies, Uproar, Dirty Goose — that are next-door pregame locations for Town? This will kill the emerging gay corridor and could make our weekends much less fun.

    We have a year to stop this. And with 10 percent of the city’s population it’s got to be possible. Why isn’t anyone trying?

    • That’s not quite how it works. This is a business decision. Considering a large number of Town patrons will probably be interested in buying these condos, it’s a non-starter.

  • I’d really like for you to expand on the following line, which makes me want to write something of my own. Something to the extent of white queer folk participating in the gentrification of DC and what it means to suddenly realize the consequences of that

    “As Town announced its impending closure, making way for condos, many in the gay community were openly wondering if we’ve effectively out-gentrified ourselves.”

  • And even tipping generously for good service will not stop gentrification.

  • “As Town announced its impending closure, making way for condos, many in the gay community were openly wondering if we’ve effectively out-gentrified ourselves.”

    If they’re still “openly wondering,” they’re either unobservant or new to urban gay life. In many gayborhoods, that ship sailed long ago.

  • Could Town find a space in Union Market? There are lots of warehouse type buildings (near NOMA and Gallaudet).

    • Not for much longer. Most if not all of Union Market is slated for redevelopment in the coming years.

      • Angelika theaters built a property there and told me personally it intends to expand across the street, on a visit some time back. I would hope there would be some land and buildings that could stay for retail and event use, rather than condos. But it may be easier for gay dance events to rent hotel and casino space (like National Harbor MGM, etc) than to own their own buildings. In NYC same problem (the Saint??)

        • Almost all of the buildings slated for Union Market will have retail space. One will have the Angelika if all goes to plan. All of the old warehouse buildings in the core blocks are historically protected, so at least their facades will remain.

          I think the point is that it’s not going to be any more hospitable to that kind of club much longer. But there are plenty of industrial spaces a bit further up New York Ave that’ll be around much longer.

          • I hope so. The Eagle went NE. A Hecht’s warehouse on NY Avenue that my father did business in during the 1950s is now a condo loft, I think. But I hope some of the industrial spaces could work. Security and Metro access and parking become issues, too.

  • Could the nearby 930 Club be jeopardized? It often used Town’s parking lot.

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